World Cup 2014: Rafael Marquez's unified Mexico look to make history

Mexico advanced from Group A after thrashing Croatia

Mexico are preparing for their last-16 game against Netherlands on Sunday with veteran captain Rafael Marquez and maverick coach Miguel Herrera determined to break a long run and reach the quarter-finals.

This is the sixth consecutive World Cup in which Mexico have reached the last 16. The only two World Cups in which they have got as far as the quarter-finals were those they hosted, in 1970 and 1986.

So Sunday’s match in Fortaleza is a chance to reach their first ever quarter-finals beyond their own country. They go into it in excellent form, having taken seven points from a competitive group and missed out on first place to Brazil on goal difference alone.

Mexico ended their group stage with a rousing 3-1 defeat of Croatia in Recife, with Marquez, Andres Guardado and Javier Hernandez scoring within one thrilling 10-minute spell in front of more than 40,000 Mexican fans.

Marquez, the 35-year-old centre-back, is captaining Mexico for the fourth consecutive World Cup and is proving to be an invaluable leader. Anchoring the five-man back line, he has shackled every opponent he has faced and led Mexico through a difficult group.

 

Herrera, their unmissable and over-enthusiastic inspiration on the touchline, praised Marquez for his leadership skills. “When I was named coach I called and talked to him about being the team leader,” said Herrera, who took over last year with Mexico desperately struggling in their Concacaf qualification group. “I told him I needed him to be the voice of the coach on the field, command the team.

“I never doubted for one second in giving him the title of captain, and I was sure he would be 100 per cent fit and he has met that goal.”

Mexico will have a difficult game in the last 16 but the Netherlands are a team who need space to counter-attack and Herrera is confident that he can beat them, with Marquez up against Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben.

“[Marquez] is the kind of player who opened up possibilities for me,” he said. “Historically, he is the only captain for four World Cups. Yes, he has reached personal goals but he has done much for the group.

“That is why the players call him ‘the Boss’. I am only thinking now about getting Rafa to lift the World Cup in his hands.”

Marquez is keenly aware that victory on Sunday would be unprecedented, and would open up a quarter-final against an easier opponent. Brazil is full of Mexico fans who are starting to dream, and the captain attributes it all to their maverick coach.

“From the beginning with Miguel, he proposed important things for us,” Marquez said. “The important phrase we use in this group is ‘make history’. And we are going step by step. We have had a great effort and we have been as good as the other teams up until now. We are the most united team I have played for. We work with solidarity and happiness.”

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